Uncorked: Russian River Valley perfect for sparkling wines
by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star
Oct 10, 2012 | 2649 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sitting in a prominent spot on my living room coffee table (yes, old people still have formal living rooms and coffee tables) is a beautiful book titled “The Art of Terroir.” The book is a compilation of stunning photographs of California’s coastal vineyards taken at varying seasons by George Rose.

Rose became a friend when he worked for the late Jess Jackson of Kendall Jackson. Rose has worked for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone. For the past 25 years he has been involved in the Northern California Wine industry and in 2009 was tapped by Sonoma’s J Vineyards and Winery to head up their trade and consumer public relations efforts.

Rose and I have exchanged many emails over the years, but had not met. I finally caught up with Rose a few months back on the terrace of J for brunch accompanied by J’s latest vintages and a tour of J’s gallery featuring Rose’s photography.

J is the brainchild of Judy Jordon, daughter of Tom Jordon, founder of the famous Jordon Vineyards and Winery located not far from J. Though started in partnership with her father, Judy is now the sole proprietor of J.

Judy is a trained geologist. She worked for Western Geophysical Corporation in Denver before joining the family business. Published accounts of her life during this time sound like an episode of television reality show “The Great Race,” as she traveled the globe to remote spots. In 1986, Judy came home with the idea of starting her own sparkling wine label.

To make great sparkling wine, the right climate is needed to support the three major grapes, pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, used in making true French Champagne. Champagne grapes thrive in cool climates that allow fruit to ripen slowly and develop flavors of great intensity. Northern Sonoma provides this climate and the Russian River Valley is particularly suited for cool climate grape varietals.

Judy’s background in geology aided her in undertaking a complete subsoil mapping of her 254-acre property. The Russian River Valley has more soil types than the entirety of France, and J’s vineyards are planted in various identified soils known for producing the best chardonnays and pinot noirs.

J was named a “Green Winery” in 2010 and the estate vineyards, winery and visitor’s center have been designated “Certified Sustainable” by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

If staying in Napa, J is about an hour and thirty minute drive from downtown Napa. Wineries in Sonoma tend to be more spread out and rural. Many wineries with huge holdings such as Kendall Jackson, Gallo and Rodney Strong are located here. One can ride for miles through vineyards without seeing a tasting room or winery because of the vastness of some vineyard holdings, but the J experience is worth seeking out.

The winery offers a number of tasting opportunities all involving food prepared by an on-premise chef to accompany visitor selected tasting options. Reservations are required. If a visit to J is not imminent, then try the next best thing by tasting J’s fine wines available locally by special order from your favorite wine merchant:

J Cuvee 20 Brut NV. $28 range. J’s sparkling wines are made by the same labor intensive methods used in making true Champagne. Lively and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness on the approach. Hints of apricot, apple and citrus in the flavor profile. Versatile for an array of food.

J Brut Rose. $28 range. Lovely pink sparkling wine from predominately pinot noir. Red berry fruit flavors, crisp and sprightly.

2009 J Vineyards Chardonnay. $28 range. Clean yet creamy. The crispness from the fruit melds seamlessly with the creaminess from a secondary malolactic fermentation. Sees time in a combination of new and older oak barrels. Sophisticated quaff for those who don’t love overdone chardonnays.

J also makes a delicious pinot gris and an array of award-winning pinot noirs.
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Uncorked: Russian River Valley perfect for sparkling wines by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star

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